Look for spicebushes in damp, partially shaded, rich woodlands, on mountains' lower slopes, in thickets, and along stream banks, throughout the Eastern United States, except the northernmost regions. Pioneers knew that this was good soil for farms, with moist, fertile soil.
The berries, which taste a little like allspice, are an irreplaceable seasoning for me. Rinse them, pat them dry, and chop them in a blender or spice grinder. If you have neither, put them under a towel and crush them with a hammer. Some people remove the seeds, but I crush them along with the rest of the berries.
Since spiceberries are ripe in apple season, they often find themselves in the same pot. I love compotes with sliced apples, walnuts, orange rind and spiceberries, simmered about 15 minutes. Spiceberries donít go quite so well with some other later autumn fruits, such as autumn olives and persimmons. Wild raisins, on the other hand, get a much-needed zing from spiceberries. The seasoning is also wonderful for main courses, and in pastries, like commercial allspice.
To store long-range, donít dry the berries. Theyíre too oily, and may go rancid at room temperature. Spread the chopped berries out on a plate or cookie sheet and freeze them, then pack into a freezer container. This way, you can remove small amounts of herb as needed, and your seasoning doesnít stick together. I think 1/2 teaspoon is plenty for a recipe that serves six, but depends on your personal preference.
Collect the twigs year-round for teas, or use the leaves from mid spring to fall. In one cup of water, steep either 1/2 cup of fresh leaves (dried leaves loose their flavor) or twigs, or two tablespoons of chopped berries.
Pioneers called this plant fever bush because a strong bark decoction makes you sweat, activating the immune system and expelling toxins. They used it for typhoid and other fevers, and to expel worms. I use a tincture of the leaves, along with wild ginger and field garlic, plus as vitamin C and zinc lozenges, at the first sign of a cold or sore throat, and it sometimes works.
The Indians used a spiceberry infusion for coughs, colds, delayed menstruation, croup, and measles. They used the oil from the berries, externally, for chronic arthritis. Itís also good for flatulence and colic. Spicebush leaf, bark, or berry tea compresses are also good for mild skin irritations, such as rashes, itching, and bruises.